LEEDv4 Perspectives on an International Project

Shiva Haghighi

Ebert & Baumann Consulting Engineers, Inc. is taking part in the LEED v4 beta phase by providing consulting services to certify the first office building in Germany according to the updated LEED for New Construction requirements.

The headquarter of ABG Frankfurt Holding is an  office building currently under construction in Niddastraße in Frankfurt, Germany; the construction site is located next to the city’s central transit station. The project is planned with six levels above ground and two underground levels with a total gross floor area of 15,000m2. The project building was initially designed to achieve a LEED Gold certification based on the LEED for New Construction 2009 rating system. During the assessment phase of the project, the project team made the decision to pursue a LEED-NC v4 certification as a beta test project. Despite switching to a new rating system in the middle of the design phase, the certification goal of achieving a LEED GOLD certification for the building has remained unchanged.

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The major changes between LEED v4 and LEED v2009 have been discussed in great detail throughout the green building industry since the unveiling of LEED v4; however, not much has been said about how international projects are affected by the LEED v4 changes.

One major change in LEED-NC v4 that positively impacts international projects is the option to use SI units (international system of units) and the inclusion of global alternative compliance paths (ACPs).  International standards can be used in lieu of the standards recommended by LEED, provided that they have stricter requirements, which is the case for most of the standards in Germany.

One of the main driving factors in the building design was achieving the Passive House standard for non-residential buildings. Passive House requirements in Germany include, but are not limited to:

  • Specific space heating demand ≤ 15 kWh/(m↑2a)
  • Specific useful cooling demand ≤ 15 kWh/(m2a)
  • Total specific primary energy demand  ≤ 120 kWh/(m2a)
  • Blower-door pressure test result n50 ≤ 0.6 h-1

Due to the fact that the Passive House standard has strict building envelope requirements and requires detailed testing and verification, the addition of envelope commissioning to LEED-NC v4 is a beneficial addition for the project.

Additionally, some of the new concepts in LEED-NC v4 are already standard practice in Germany. Examples include metering and sub-metering building energy and water systems, as well as high acoustic performance and daylight requirements.

However, some of the LEED v4 changes are significantly more difficult to achieve for projects situated in Germany. For instance, the materials credits in LEED-NC v4 require much more work from the entire project team, and the documentation required from the worksheets and calculators provided by the USGBC is very specific, and in English.  The documents for those credits have to be translated and adjusted to German standards.

Another example is that in past German projects, any wood materials that were certified by a body other than the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) were not accepted by the USGBC for the Materials and Resources Certified Wood credit.  This has made the credit difficult to achieve at times, despite the wood materials meeting German ecological standards and criteria.  The new global alternative compliance paths under LEED-NC v4 may make credits like this easier for international projects to achieve.

There is a learning curve for certifying a LEED-NC v4 beta project, but this is true for both American projects and also projects abroad.  Thanks to stringent building standards in Germany and in this instance the Passive House requirements, the project in Niddastraße, Frankfurt is able to achieve some credits more easily than its counterparts in the US, but the language barriers and design differences can be inconvenient challenges with respect to the required documentation.

Ultimately, working on a LEED v4 beta project has been an exciting process, and Ebert & Baumann Consulting Engineers, Inc. is proud to be a part of the beta test phase.

Shiva Haghighi graduated from Purdue University in 2011 with a Master’s degree in Architectural Engineering.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering as well as a minor in Spanish from the same institution.  She has been a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) since 2009 and an Engineer in Training (EIT) since 2008.  Shiva began working with Ebert & Baumann Consulting Engineers in 2011, where she has had the opportunity to work on a multitude of projects in different countries, including over 20  LEED projects under the New Construction, Existing Buildings, Core and Shell, and Commercial Interiors rating systems. 

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